Whenever I tune into a discussion of Johnny Manziel’s prospects for the NFL draft,
debate invariably ensues about how tall he really is. This puzzles me. How can this be a mystery?
We’ve seen supposedly reliable media accounts of Johnny being 5-11, or 5-11 ½ or 6-feet even.
Skip Bayless, reliably contrarian analyst for ESPN, insisted: “I’ve stood next to him and he’s a solid six feet – six feet and a half (inch).”
I would have thought Texas A&M would have measured Johnny along with all its other athletes. This should establish his height as a matter of record, and we wouldn’t have to wait until the NFL Combine (Feb. 19-25, Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis) to know the truth about a player’s size.
But a funny thing about height – and perhaps more so, weight — players in all sports lie about it and the media cares little about the true numbers.
When I covered the Houston Rockets in the 1980s and ’90s, All-Star center Hakeem Olajuwon’s height was constantly being listed at 7-0 when the player himself admitted he was 6-10 “and a half.”
When he told me that, I stopped referring to him as a “seven footer” and I changed the way his height was listed in our published rosters and game capsules. But copy editors at the Houston Chronicle reversed me, insisting Olajuwon had to be listed at 7-0 “because he’s considered a 7-footer.”
I gave up. But now as I hear the Manziel debate, I regret not trying harder to uncover the truth about the size of athletes. It is, after all, an important consideration for teams making draft picks or trades or even determining what position an athlete plays.
Many NFL talent judges do not want a quarterback under 6-2, no matter how many Super Bowls Russell Wilson may win. Sub-6 feet makes these scouts apoplectic, even though they would do well to pay more attention to the passer’s release point. David Carr and Tim Tebow were tall first-rounders who flopped largely because of faulty delivery.
Whatever Drew Brees’ height – reportedly anywhere from 5-10 ½ to 6-0 – he has little trouble throwing from the pocket and avoiding knockdowns of his passes.
Many teams falsify the records hoping to gain some psychological advantage. Some sports publicists feel the need to make Johnny seem more intimidating than he is.
And some football linemen and big-league pitchers misstate their weight so they don’t seem as fat.
Then again, some reporters like to minimize someone’s size because a David story is more appealing than a Goliath.
Everyone should be held accountable here – the publicists, the media, the coaches and players. We’re living in an era of transparency – no lying on your resumes. It should not be a matter of national debate how tall a famous athlete really is.